DeSEAN JACKSON feels he will play this week. That's not the plan for Brian Westbrook, who did practice yesterday, with the scout team, his first action since suffering his second concussion, Nov. 15 at San Diego. Westbrook said yesterday he still hopes to play before the season ends.
But neither Jackson nor Westbrook really knows where their concussion stories will go from here.
"I'm not scared to play the game of football, but I'm concerned that things that are happening now inside the game of football - concussions, things like that, head injuries, can really affect my life as far down the road as 30, 40, 50 years. That really concerns me,'' Westbrook said, clarifying remarks the running back made Tuesday night on Joe Buck's HBO show, about being "scared.''
"It's a serious issue, any time it's your brain,'' said Jackson, a second-year wideout. "It's nothing you can really worry about . . . in my situation, there was nothing I could do to protect myself from that; it was just an unfortunate situation. In the future, whatever I can do to protect myself from that, I'll do.''
Jackson said he intends to return punts, assuming he has no further problems with headaches this week and plays as planned against the Giants.
Jackson said sitting at home last Sunday as his teammates won at Atlanta was "awkward and weird'' but he felt sitting out a week - after getting a concussion on a collision with Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, who also caused Westbrook's first concussion - was the right decision.
"I just tried to be cautious with my situation,'' Jackson said. "Everybody in the training room, and my coaches, were OK with my decision, and the research and everything they did.''
Westbrook and Jackson are small for their respective positions. Jackson, especially, looks to be very much in peril when he ventures across the middle, as he did on the catch that caused his problem.
"You just have to keep your head on a swivel. You can't really worry about injuries,'' Jackson said. "You're cautious of them, but you can't really go out there and be worried about them. I just have a job to do, and I'm very confident that I'll be put in positions to go out there and, hopefully, that'll never happen again.''
It's hard for Westbrook to have that confidence, having suffered a concussion Oct. 26 against Washington, gone through all the mandated testing, been cleared to return Nov. 15, and promptly having seen the same thing happen again. That doesn't make him want to retire at age 30, though.
"No, I think the concern makes you go find doctors and try to understand better what the problem is, and how can you really go back out there and play in a way that the same things won't continue to happen,'' he said. "And I did find those answers, going to Pittsburgh and talking to those [concussion experts], and they basically said once you're back to 100 percent healthy, then you don't really have a risk of getting a concussion just the same way that it happened before - you basically have the same risk as you would if you'd never had a concussion. Those are the answers that I wanted to hear, that I needed to hear, and those are the things that really concerned me.''
Westbrook said he feels, in retrospect, he had not healed when he took the field against San Diego. Implicit was that he definitely plans to be healed before he gets hit again. But he does expect to return.
"I think all the signs right now are aiming toward being able to play before the end of the season,'' Westbrook said.